Thursday, July 3, 2014

Keefe Falls, Richland Wilderness Area, Arkansas

7/2/2014 - Keefe Falls

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking:  35.76666,  92.93337,  1146 feet
  Keefe Falls:  35.76548,   92.92607,  1389 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for pets on or off leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  Wouldn't take my Harley on it, or any other street bike or cruiser.

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Keefe Falls GPS track

Keefe Falls (78')
After hiking both Pedestal Rocks and King's Bluff trail loops, and hiking down to the bottom of King's Bluff Falls, I'll admit to being a little tired and a lot sweaty.  But we ate a late lunch, hydrated, and felt completely refreshed.  Still soaked in sweat, but hey - I'm old, and it was about 230% humidity.  So we packed up and continued down the road to Keefe Falls.  It was just me and Boomer out today.  Bethany wanted to get flyers out for her 4th of July Giveaway.  See her website to see what she was up to:
Vintage Stars and Stripes

Keefe Falls is one of the many waterfalls in the Falling Water Creek polyfoss area.  There are a bunch of others in this area you can get details on from my March 30 blog entry.  To get there, go north on Hwy 7 to Pelsor (Sand Gap) and turn east on Hwy 16.  Go nine miles on Hwy 16 and turn left (north) on Upper Falling Water Road.  This is the first left after you pass through the little community of Ben Hur.  It has no road sign, but there is a big sign for the Falling Water Horse Camp.  Go down Falling Water Road, bearing left where roads merge from the right.  You will pass Falling Water Falls on the right, then at 5.3 miles go over the low water bridge.  About one mile after the bridge, you pass over a couple of large steel culverts.  That is the creek Keefe Falls feeds.  Keep going around the bend in the road and there is a good parking spot on the left where the road goes down right next to the creek.  This is also a good camp site.

Bluffs along Keefe Falls trail
After parking, hike back down the road in the direction you came from, to where the creek passes under the road.  Don't be alarmed if the creek bed is dry, it usually is.  Today, there was actually pretty good flow in the creek, so I got a little excited about what Keefe Falls would look like.  As you face upstream from the road, look for a trail on the left side of this creek bed.  Leave the road onto this trail and stay on it.  The trail stays close to the creek for a while, then climbs up high above creek level until you get close to Keefe Falls.  This trail is kept in pretty good shape because folks from the horse camp use it to get to the falls.

Keefe Falls (78')
When you get close to the falls, the trail crosses back and forth across the creek bed due to the steepness of the bank on one side or the other.  At this point, you are close to the waterfall and it is just as easy hiking up the creek bed as it is on the trail.  Today, the creek bed actually dried up less than halfway to the falls.  As I said before, don't be alarmed if it is.  Creeks in the Ozarks often 'go underground' and emerge later downstream, even in wet weather.  This trip, there was plenty of flow where it ran into Falling Water Creek, and a decent amount of water flowing over the waterfall, but pretty much dry in between.

At 78 feet high, Keefe Falls is the highest I know of in the Richland Wilderness area.  The hike is actually fairly short and easy.  I would think a lot more folks would come here, especially considering it's proximity to other easy-to-hike-to waterfalls.  I have seen tracks, so I know folks go there on horseback, but in several trips I have never seen another person at this waterfall, or on the trail.  The large grotto the waterfall is in is just beautiful, a nice setting for a tall waterfall.  This is what I call a 'wet weather' waterfall, so it is best seen after a good amount of rain.  That 
Boomer! Base of Keefe Falls in backround
being said, it was great today, even though it was early in July with not that much recent rain.  I 
guess you can never tell.  I have seen this waterfall with only a small dribble coming over the falls.  I have never seen it dry up completely, but I suspect it does.

This is only about a half mile hike off the road.  My GPS trip meter said 1.2 miles roundtrip, but about 0.2 miles was on the road from the parking location to the trail (see GPS track below).   There is over 200 feet of elevation change, and this is the way I prefer it - do the climbing on the way there, so it's all downhill when you return.  From where the trail leaves the road, Fuzzybutt Falls is just a quarter mile upstream.  You can cross Falling Water Creek and easily hike up to it without needing to move your vehicle.  The Ozark Highlands Trail (dashed line on the GPS track below) also intersects the Keefe Falls trail, so if you hike the OHT this is just a short side trip, and well worth it.
GPS track to Keefe Falls

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